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Urban Space Planning for Sustainable High Density Environment

Authors:
  • Singapore Government

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the possibilities of new typologies of urban public space for high density environments. The premise for the project would be that with new high-density typologies, it would be necessary to consider a difference in the nature of urban public spaces rather than a difference in degree from the status quo. From observations of urban patterns that drive collective, hybrid spaces around Asia, relationships between urban attributes are drawn. For this paper we shall focus on the particular case of Linked Hybrid, Beijing, China, as an elevated urban public space. A literature review focuses on reviewing key theories to construct and adopt a rating system to develop an empirical framework to evaluate the case studies and extract the key attributes. These rated attributes are then abstracted in a real-time model that enables user manipulation. The purpose is to create a tool to better observe the effects and evolution of planning decisions for future urban spaces in high density contexts. The preliminary results are consistent with the idea that selected spatial parameters of a space may be embedded into a “barcode” and referenced as a type. The combination of different types, hence their parameters may be used for effective replication of their characteristics to improve the decision-making process for urban designers. The research is not intended to reproduce the successful urban public spaces but rather result in a catalogue of typologies which can be referred to during the initial stages of planning to provide an indication of spatial qualities.
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City Modelling
Urban Space Planning for Sustainable High Density
Environment
Nicolas Ladouce 1, Limin Hee 2, Patrick T. Janssen3
1 Doctoral Candidate, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore,
2,3Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore
1nicolas@nus.edu.sg, 2akiheelm@nus.edu.sg, 3patrick.ht.janssen@gmail.com
Abstract. In this paper we investigate the possibilities of new typologies
of urban public space for high density environments. The premise for the
project would be that with new high-density typologies, it would be necessary
to consider a difference in the nature of urban public spaces rather than a
difference in degree from the status quo. From observations of urban patterns
that drive collective, hybrid spaces around Asia, relationships between urban
attributes are drawn. For this paper we shall focus on the particular case of
Linked Hybrid, Beijing, China, as an elevated urban public space. A literature
review focuses on reviewing key theories to construct and adopt a rating system
to develop an empirical framework to evaluate the case studies and extract
the key attributes. These rated attributes are then abstracted in a real-time
model that enables user manipulation. The purpose is to create a tool to better
observe the effects and evolution of planning decisions for future urban spaces
in high density contexts. The preliminary results are consistent with the idea that
selected spatial parameters of a space may be embedded into a “barcode” and
referenced as a type. The combination of different types, hence their parameters
may be used for effective replication of their characteristics to improve the
decision-making process for urban designers. The research is not intended to
reproduce the successful urban public spaces but rather result in a catalogue
of typologies which can be referred to during the initial stages of planning to
provide an indication of spatial qualities.
Keywords. High density environments; collective urban space; hybrid
typologies; parametric urbanism.
Introduction
The main impetus for this project is that high density
spaces would require qualitative re-orientation of
the conception of urban public spaces, rather than
mere quantitative re-adjustments. Investigations are
made of possible new congurations of urban pub-
lic spaces integrative with high density typologies
that are environmentally considered, and have the
potential to be socially adapted to become vibrant
public spaces. The premise for the project is that with
new high-density typologies, it would be necessary
778 eCAADe 28 - City Modelling
to consider a dierence in the nature of these urban
spaces rather than a dierence in degree from the
status quo. The research is supported by generative
and parametric tools to provide designers with a
system to investigate new typologies in high den-
sity contexts. This paper documents the rst experi-
ments towards developing this system.
Problem Statement
Urban Public Space as “Collective Space
Public space can be dened an accessible space for
all urbanites regardless of gender, race, ethnicity,
age or socio-economic level with free circulation of
persons and goods Gehl (1936), Carmona (2003),
and Shaftoe (2008). Classical denitions of public
space also describe it as a space of debate, a symbol
of democracy and sociability. Finally, urban public
space is as an open space to cater to public health
and recreation purposes.
The notion of space as “collective space” presup-
poses that groups occupy domains and co-exist on
a competitive basis with other groups. Interactions
between groups may be spontaneous, but dier-
ences exist and may at times lead to antagonism.
Collective space tends to be more social than politi-
cal in nature, and may approximate the marketplace
more than the agora. The “experiential” rather than
communication dimension of public space is fore
grounded. This would be the denition adopted
for this research as urban (public) space rather than
the classical denitions, due to the emphasis on the
physical nature of urban space and its applicability
in the Singapore context. The term “urban space” is
used instead in the research to take into account
spaces that may not be public-owned but perform
like public spaces.
Hybridized Typologies
Familiar models of urban space include those predi-
cated on the relationship between the form of ur-
ban space and the use and socio-cultural meaning
of these spaces in the development of typologies.
Squares, boulevards, public gardens and arcades
had not only made the city readable, but held mean-
ings and uses that were understood by everyone.
While previous research has focused on such typolo-
gies, we still know too little about the expanding
typologies emerging today. The increasing cultural
diversity of cities is leading to a multiplicity of hybrid
space typologies.
It is necessary to examine the shifting mean-
ings and use of places over time, the deformations
of typologies of spaces, as well as the importation of
new typologies and their reconstitution in high den-
sity contexts would be more relevant to the needs
of new high density environments than to review a
history and taxonomy of types of public spaces. In
selecting the case studies, we have therefore pri-
oritized emerging new uses in existing typologies of
public spaces in high density contexts and attempt-
ed to categorize them as follows:
• Multi-level, multi functional spaces (emergent
uses railway stations spaces as public space)
• New types of urban spaces in Intensied resi-
dential developments
• New types of urban spaces in urban districts and
integrated development
• Urban spaces in integrated waterfront districts
• Elevated urban spaces
• Pedestrian friendly planning in cities
• Urban green
While the themes used to categorized the types
of spaces above are not hybrid per se, our interest
lies in spaces that have been transformed in terms
of new uses and activities over time. For this rst ex-
periment, we shall use the example of an elevated
public space.
Framework
Urban attributes and their relationships
Cities can be seen as a dynamic assembly of events
that functions together synergistically. Over time,
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elements of the city function as dynamic organisms,
changing in response to how people interact with
them. Through the case studies, the research de-
constructs the selected typologies of urban public
spaces to explore the relationships between sets of
attributes to identify and understand the nature of
their formation, functions and feel. Urban spaces are
described often by broad intangible qualities such
as comfort, aesthetics, etc. These qualities can be
further broken down into measurable aspects that
dene space, or by their dening attributes. Many at-
tributes may be involved in dening an urban space.
Drawing from research by Gehl (1936), Carmona
(2003), and Shaftoe (2008), attributes dening urban
spaces include connectivity, accessibility, privacy,
user density, active frontages, demography, and in-
tensity of activities etc, many of which have linked
relationships with other attributes. It is expected
that these relationships may be asymmetric & varied
- e.g. better connectivity of a particular space may be
one of the factors that account for an increase in user
density and an increase in the intensity of activities.
Through the collection of data from our case study,
we examine the relationships between attributes as
well as the typologies of spaces dened by specic
sets of attributes. These relationships are later recon-
structed in a parametric model.
Research Background & Methodology
Advances in digital tools and processes have radical-
ly revolutionized the design, practice and construc-
tion of architecture in the past decade. Generative
and parametric techniques have demonstrated their
versatility in architecture through their ability to in-
tegrate variable aspects such as time, sun exposure,
wind patterns and spatial trajectories into a digital
design process. However, in the past few years, there
has been a slight shift in the usage of such tools and
processes to explore their potential at the urban
scale. The ability to simulate and evaluate the im-
plications of design strategies over time is a key at-
tribute for which the use generative and parametric
tools have been welcomed in urban design .
As Patrick Schumacher explains in his manifesto
on ‘parametricism, parametric modeling techniques
have pushed the barriers of designers for the past
decade enabling a certain style that very much gov-
erns form nding today, be it in design or architec-
ture. While Schumacher’s call revolves around the
beginning of a new aesthetic to replace modernism,
it is undeniable that parametric and generative tools
can achieve more than form making or aestheticism.
They have the potential to provide a framework for
an integrative design process.
The use of recursive algorithms (Cellular Au-
tomaton, Voronoi, L-systems) have made it possible
to adapt modeling techniques at a bigger scale: that
of the city. These algorithms are capable to articulate
the inherent programmatic complexities of city sys-
tems such as transport, zoning regulations & design
guidelines. The integration of generative and para-
metric tools in Urban Design has been welcomed by
two major changes in theory and thinking of urban
designers. Firstly, planning ideals in the last few de-
cades have shifted from the idea of master planning
to strategic planning, where the process consist of
the implementation of the planning concepts itself
rather than the drawing of the master plan. This calls
upon frequent interventions to adapt to the chang-
ing patterns of the urban environment. There is a
need for planners to be able to keep ahead of chang-
es and to constantly evaluate the consequences of
their action. Simulations and parametric modeling
oers that kind of exibility. Furthermore, they have
allowed designers to extrapolate the simulations to
assess the implications of their ideas without having
to wait decades for them to be fully implemented.
Secondly, these tools have allowed designers
to unleashed new design processes and new forms
that are more integrated, especially as we begin to
understand cities as environments that function in
real-time, where entities are dependent and self-
organizing with emergent potential. The objective
of this research is to look into these algorithms as
tools to synthesize, analyze, combine and evaluate
780 eCAADe 28 - City Modelling
attributes of existing and new typologies of spaces.
Methodology
The research is carried out in two parts: the rst part
is a case study based design survey of selected typol-
ogies of urban spaces in high density contexts such
as New York, Beijing and Tokyo. This study includes
documentation of typologies, uses, intensity of ac-
tivities, with a comprehensive documentation of the
design parameters and planning policies, including
measures to enhance sustainability capabilities of
the larger urban environment. The aim is to highlight
and dene the key attributes that has contributed to
the use of this space as a “collective space”. The fol-
lowing illustration [Figure 1] shows the relationship
of some qualities of space with the expansion into
measurable attributes. However, the study captures
only key attributes that would form the basis for
describing most urban spaces.
Linked parameters dene specic urban spaces,
such that these parameters can be used to identify
particular types of spaces. These linked chains of pa-
rameters may be described analogically as spatial
“barcodes, since they derive the signature of a par-
ticular typology of space. A barcode will encompass
the relevant parameters as well as their inter-rela-
tionships that are instrumental in shaping the type
of urban space. The stringed spatial barcode, with
their quantied parameters can be used in an evalu-
ative framework in comparison with other spatial
typologies dened also by these barcodes [FIGURE
2]. The results are evaluated and recommendations
made on the parameters for new urban space in lo-
cal conditions based on the implications of design-
ing within the new high-density context.
Figure 1
Urban attributes adapted
from PPS (2008), Gehl
(1936), Carmona (2003), and
Shaftoe (2008)
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Linked Hybrid as a Case Study
For reference in this paper we shall be using the
Linked Hybrid residential development by Steven
Holl, as an elevated urban space. The Linked Hybrid
is an integrated residential development, situated to
the north-east side of Beijing on the fringe of Dong
Cheng District. It is particularly acclaimed for its inte-
gration of sustainable features such as geothermal
energy for cooling or heating.
The design aimed to promote interaction
through its porous and generous urban space
around and above in the development. Through a
mix of commercial, educational, residential and rec-
reational uses at dierent levels, it aimed to bring in
people from the surrounding to generate a micro-
urbanism that would be in contrast with the current
privatized urban developments in China. The rst
oor features cafes, bookshops, interior décor of-
ces, hotels, shops, cinema and a gymnasium.
Elevated urban space - Sky Bridges
The sky bridge is a unique ring of bridges and urban
spaces that links all the 8 residential towers together
from ranging from the 12-18th oor. 3 dedicated
lobbies provide access to the sky bridges via express
lifts. The sky lounge programs include bar, restau-
rant, gallery, bookstore, lounge, swimming pool,
sauna, gym, spa, and shops. While the conceptual
idea is refreshing, its implementation is not success-
ful and begs the question whether the location is
adequate.
Figure 2
Research process
782 eCAADe 28 - City Modelling
Analysis of Linked Hybrid
Highlighted below [Figure 3] is a rating table for the
key attributes of Linked Hybrid urban spaces. As
expected, the Nodal Value for the development is
decient. If the sky bridges presupposes the failure
of elevated urban spaces, the development’s loca-
tion and its gated typology plays a major role in its
eventual demise. We shall thus consider the poten-
tial positive aspects that sky bridges, as a new type,
can generate in a high density setting; mainly linking
developments, creating a continuity of the street up
in the sky and capitalizing on views/vantage points
oered in a high rise context.
There are a number of variables that may be
Figure 3
Key attributes of Linked
Hybrid urban spaces
employed to generate the typology of Linked Hy-
brid; however for now this will be restricted so as to
generate the main physical and spatial attributes.
Below is a list of the variants identied to generate
the elevated sky bridges of Linked Hybrid:
1. Building Plots
2. Existing Building Footprint
3. Height of Buildings
4. Distance between buildings
5. Height of Bridges v/s height of buildings
6. Bridge inclination less than 1:20
7. Bridge width & depth
8. Points of connection
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Tools & Techniques
Modeling of Urban systems through relation-
ship of attributes
Linked parameters dene specic urban spaces,
such that these parameters can be used to iden-
tify particular types of spaces. These linked chains
of parameters may be described analogically as
spatial “barcodes, since they derive the signature
of a particular typology of space. A barcode encom-
passes the relevant parameters as well as their inter-
relationships that are instrumental in shaping the
type of urban space [ FIGURE 4]. The parameters of a
barcode are extracted from the key attributes of the
particular space.
Figure 4
Diagrammatic spatial bar-
codes representing the par-
ticular typology of a space
This initial phase has been developed using
Rhinoceros 3D and the graphical algorithm editor,
Grasshopper. A relationship model is set up between
the design variants identied above. These are re-
lated by one or several mathematical and probabi-
listic relationships to continuously generate multiple
design variants.
For this rst experiment, a hierarchy is estab-
lished among the variants from user-dened plots to
generate the number of oors for a particular build-
ing according to manually congured entries for
plot ratio and site coverage. A test is implemented
to locate the most ecient connecting points based
on the shortest distance between building facades.
This results in a number of possibilities than can be
optimized by manually changing certain values such
784 eCAADe 28 - City Modelling
as the height at which the bridge occurs, bridge in-
clination, width, depth and changing the points of
connection. Using this simple setup, an array of vari-
ant can be generated and evaluated as previously
shown in Figure 3. This rating system is currently
done manually based on a set of criteria based on
literature reviews. It is our aim to automate this eval-
uation process through the use of evaluating tools
such as space syntax for instance.
Results
Figure 5 below shows some of the rst variances cre-
ated with the parametric model.
The string of relationship obtained above, while
still in its crude form becomes a barcode for the gen-
eration of elevated spaces types. The objective is to
Figure 5
Variances generated from the
particular sky bridge typology
create variations of this elevated space barcode ty-
pology as well as other types discussed above. The
purpose is to create a catalogue of barcodes from
which designers may then cross-breed to generate
new hybrid types.
Conclusion and Further Work
Modeling new typologies
The preliminary results above are consistent with the
idea that selected spatial parameters of a space may
be embedded into a “barcode” and referenced as a
type. The combination of dierent types, hence their
parameters may be used for eective replication of
their characteristics to improve the decision-making
process for urban designers.
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The next step in our work will be to develop a
coherent and well-dened framework to guide our
modeling process in terms of functionalities and
techniques used to move from simplistic to more
complex relationships between urban attributes.
The stringed spatial barcode, with their quantied
parameters can be used in an evaluative framework
which will have to be integrated to validate the vari-
ants generated and automate the rating system for
attributes as privacy, connectivity, visibility through
the use of agent-based simulations. The cross-eval-
uation enables us to place dierent typologies of
spaces within a ranking system. Simulations of spa-
tial typologies enable the parameters within the bar-
code string to be varied, engendering yet other new
spatial typologies in the process.
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Article
Though parametricism has its roots in the digital animation techniques of the mid-1990s, it has only fully emerged in recent years with the development of advanced parametric design systems. Patrik Schumacher explains why parametricism has become the dominant, single style for avant-garde practice today and why it is particularly suited to large-scale urbanism as exemplified by a series of competition-winning masterplans by Zaha Hadid Architects. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The spatial organization of cities
  • A Berthaud
Berthaud, A 2004, The spatial organization of cities, http://alain-bertaud.com [Accessed 1st April 2010].
Public places urban spaces : the dimensions of urban design
  • M Carmona
  • T Heath
  • S Oc T And Tiesdell
Carmona, M Heath, T OC T and Tiesdell, S 2003, Public places urban spaces : the dimensions of urban design, Oxford, Architectural Press.
A New Global Style for Architecture and Urban Design
  • P Leach
Leach, P N 2009, A New Global Style for Architecture and Urban Design. Digital Cities, AD: Architectural Design, 14-23.
Convivial urban spaces : creating effective public places
  • H Shaftoe
Shaftoe, H 2008, Convivial urban spaces : creating effective public places, Sterling, Earthscan, London, VA.